As many as 200,000 families who depend on the Sundarbans for their livelihoods have been facing acute financial hardship due to the three-month restriction on collection of resources from the mangrove forest.
The government restricted entry into the forest for fishing, travel or resources collection for three months from 1 June to 31 August to ensure an undisturbed environment for wildlife during the breeding season.
Woodcutters, honey collectors, fishermen and others in seven districts -- Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Pirojpur, Barguna, Jhalakathi and Patuakhali -- along the Sundarbans have been passing idle time without work due to the ban.
During a recent visit to the Sundarbans, the UNB correspondent learnt that many people living on fishing, cutting wood, and collecting honey from the Sundarbans have been facing acute food crisis and living on either starving or half-fed.
Bawals (wood collectors), fishermen and Mowals (honey collectors) said they need assistance from the government or they would die from starvation.
MA Hasan, assistant director of Sundarbans West zone (Satkhira range), said the forest department is enforcing a 93-day ‘Sundarbans Rest zone’ till 31 August and during the period, no one will be allowed to enter the forest.
Already a list of the worst affected people has been sent to the authorities concerned of the Forest Department seeking assistance but yet to get any response, he said.
Sudhanshu Sekhor Gain, a fisherman of Burigoalini in Satkhira’s Shyamnagar upazila said, “I have been running my family by catching crabs from the Sundarbans but now I have no income.”
“We are passing a hard time, maintaining family with our low income has become difficult amid soaring prices of daily essentials and then the restriction came. No one can feel my pain,” said Hanif Gazi, another fisherman of the area.
Siddique Gazi, a fisherman of Datinkhali village in the upazila said, “We are not habituated to work outside the Sundarbans as we earn by catching crabs and fish from the forest. We are struggling hard at that moment due to the ban.”
Tushar Kumar Majumder, Shyamnagar upazila senior fisheries officer, said there is a list of 795 fishermen in the upazila.
They will get 86 kgs of rice per person. Besides, a list of 8,324 fishermen was prepared and sent to the forest department for food assistance.